March, 18th 2014

Baltimore's Very Own Bacon Festival

Baltimore magazine

Immerse yourself in a culinary wonderland of bacon on Saturday, April 26, at the inaugural Maryland Bacon Festival. Tickets go on sale at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) for the event at Rash Field at the Inner Harbor.

The day, sponsored by America Loves Bacon, will feature 30 of the area's top restaurants and food trucks, demos, samples, bacon-eating contests, and even a bacon-themed kids zone.

A Maryland Bacon-Off will also take place, pitting chefs and mixologists against each other in various categories to see who has the top bacon skills and creativity.

There will also be music and full-service bars with an array of drinks, including bacon-themed cocktails.

My challenge (and maybe yours, too) will be figuring out how to go to this festival and also to The Emporiyum—another food fest being held that day and April 27 in Fells Point—without pigging out too much.

Chefs like Bryan Voltaggio of Volt in Frederick and Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground in D.C. will be participating at Emporiyum as well as vendors from our area and around the country. For more information, check out my earlier post.

It's going to be a very fun, filling weekend. 

March, 18th 2014

Two James Beard Finalists for Baltimore

Baltimore magazine

Cindy WolfOut of a pack of 20 James Beard Awards semifinalists for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, Baltimore chefs Spike Gjerde and Cindy Wolf made it to the final five. The winner will be announced on May 5 in New York.

Both chefs have been nominated in the past. Spike—who owns Woodberry Kitchen, Artifact Coffee, Shoo-Fly Diner, and the soon-to-open Parts & Labor with his wife Amy, was a finalist last year.

Cindy, who has headed the kitchen at Charleston since 1997 and is a major player in the Foreman Wolf restaurant group, has been a finalist twice.

The other chef finalists in the Mid-Atlantic category are: Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA; Brad Spence of Amis in Philadelphia, and Vikram Sunderam of Rasika in D.C.

The James Beard finalists were announced this morning from Chicago. Hopefully, the announcer will get Spike's last name correct if he wins in May. This guy pronounced it "Gerd."

Congratulations to our chefs. 

March, 17th 2014

A Taste of Baltimore, D.C., and Philly

Baltimore magazine

For the past two years, A Taste of Two Cities has pitted the food trucks of Baltimore and D.C. against each other. This year, Philadelphia will add its mobile trucks to the competition.

Its organizer bills A Taste of Three Cities as “the largest food truck event ever held in the state of Maryland” on The Gathering Facebook page. Whatever the superlative, an assembly of 50 vehicles bearing all manner of food is pretty impressive.

The event will be held on Saturday, May 31, at lots B and C at M&T Bank Stadium, or, as some may call it, Ravens stadium.

In previous years, Baltimore has won the top prize, the Mayor’s Cup Trophy. The addition of Philly will certainly up the ante.

Photo from A Taste of Two Cities 2013


March, 13th 2014

Irish Fare for the Whole Weekend

Baltimore magazine

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day is about more than just beer and wearing green. Getting a good Irish meal in your belly is also key, and Baltimore has a wide variety of options to choose from.

For a weekend-long celebration, head to James Joyce Irish Pub & Restaurant. There will be live music all day on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, including Danny Burns, Crossing Celtic, The Shamrogues, and Laura Byrne. Fill up on potato soup or beef and Guinness stew, pictured, to complete the Irish experience.

Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia will be serving corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick's Day this Saturday and Sunday night and all day on Monday. Regular menu items, like fish and chips and lamb chops, will also be available. The restaurant also has a number of draft beers on tap, including Irish favorite Guinness.

The Waterfront Partnership will hold its third annual Shamrock Shindig at Pier V this Sunday, from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Food trucks, including Kommie Pig, Darua, and Flavor Cupcakery, will provide snacks and lunch. The Gypsy Queen truck will serve spins on Irish favorites, like Guinness chocolate-covered bacon, corned-beef sandwiches, and lepre-cones (green cookies-and-cream cakes topped with edible gold). Wristbands for unlimited drinks can be purchased for $15. Enjoy the Celtic band Barleyjuice, take the kids to the Shamrock Alley kids' zone, and await the start of the St. Patrick's Day parade after the Shindig ends. The parade steps off at 2 p.m. at the Washington Monument and continues to Pratt Street and Market Place.

A vegan Irish brunch will be served at Ma Petite Shoe Café in Hampden every hour on Sunday from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., with items like marmalade cake, vegan shepherd's pie, and a hash of roasted parsnips, potatoes and onion. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at their website.

Crème is right on the parade route, and you can watch as you enjoy corned-beef hash and green mimosas. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

March, 11th 2014

Spike's Parts & Labor Coming Soon

Baltimore magazine

butcher Geoge MarshGet a first-hand look at the work of butcher George Marsh as he leads a lesson on how to break down half a hog. The class, followed by a three-course supper, will be held at Artifact Coffee at 6 p.m. on April 1.

Marsh, pictured left, is the head butcher at Parts & Labor, the latest offering by Spike and Amy Gjerde, who also run Artifact, Woodberry Kitchen, and Shoo-Fly Diner. The new Remington space at 2600 N. Howard St. will house a full-service butcher shop and a restaurant.

The butcher shop will open in late March and showcase cuts of meat from area farms like Liberty Delight Farm, Whistle Pig Hollow, and Many Rocks Farm as well as offer salami and pâtés for sale.

The 84-seat restaurant will begin service in April. It will feature hearth-cooked items like steak, pork shops, various sausages, and roasted seasonal vegetables. Diners will also be able to enjoy "one-pot" dishes like chilies and stews and construct their own cured-meat board from a selection of hams, terrines, and sausages.

A beer program will offer 24 taps featuring Maryland breweries as much as possible. There will also be a growler station.

The Artifact butchery event is being hosted by Make Tribe, a group focusing on crafting workshops. Tickets are $68 (includes food, drink, lesson, tax, and gratuity) and can be purchased on their website. Space is limited.

Chef photo courtesy of 

March, 10th 2014

Actor Woody Harrelson Buys a Local Inn

Baltimore magazine

The troubled Inn at the Black Olive received an infusion of new life with its purchase by actor Woody Harrelson and local banker Jack Dwyer. The Baltimore Business Journal broke the news today.

I caught up this afternoon with Dimitris Spiliadis, whose family owned the boutique hotel until they ran into financial difficulty a year ago. After filing for bankruptcy, the property ended up with its mortgage holder.

With the new partners, Dimitris will continue to manage the 12-suite inn, which includes a market and a restaurant. His parents, Stelios and Pauline, will handle the family's long-time restaurant The Black Olive in Fells Point as a separate entity.

"It's the coolest thing that ever happened," Dimitris said of the acquisition. "It's very humbling."

Agora café/market on the inn's first floor and its rooftop Olive Room restaurant are open for business. They focus on organic fare. The Olive Room serves dinner Tuesday-Saturday and brunch on Sundays.

Dimitris and Woody—whose most recent venture is HBO's acclaimed True Detective—became friends when the actor stayed at the inn, bordering Fells Point and Harbor East, for seven weeks while filming Game Change in Baltimore for HBO.

Both men share a love of healthful food and lifestyles. In July 2012, Woody, pictured at the time, came back to Baltimore to attend a raw-foods dinner at the inn's restaurant.

(Note the Yankees cap. Maybe next time, he'll be wearing an O's hat.)

He addressed the diners, including me, genially: "I'm honored to be here," he said. "Raw food is where it's at."

Woody also thanked Dimitris. "You treated me so great," he said. "More importantly, you are a great friend."

Today, Dimitris said that Woody "would like me to do what I've been doing" at the inn.

"Every day, I'm very happy, very grateful," he said. "But there is a lot of pressure to make it work." 

March, 7th 2014

Little Italy’s Milan Gets a New Owner

Baltimore magazine

A section of the closed Milan restaurant on Eastern Avenue in Little Italy is reopening as Affogato Café & Gelato within two weeks, its new owner Alain Kalantar said today. But that’s only part of the project.

Alain, a D.C. restaurateur who has been in the hospitality business for 20 years, is also renovating the rest of the multilevel building into a full-scale restaurant that he’s hoping will be open in August.

He didn’t want to share the details of the concept at this time, calling it a “surprise.” “A lot of money plus hearts and souls are going into this,” he said. “I’m looking forward to my new city.”

Milan opened to great fanfare in 2010 but closed due to zoning violations two years later. The building, at the corner of 1000 Eastern Avenue and Exeter Street, has been vacant since.

The new café, pictured, will carry several gelato flavors and spinoffs like gelato popsicles and sugar-free options. A variety of specialty coffees will also be offered. “I want to be a neighborhood hangout,” Alain said.

March, 5th 2014

Another Takeover at Artifact Coffee

Baltimore magazine

Artifact takeoverThe menu is mouthwatering. House-made biscuits with Buffalo-style fried chicken with Woodberry Kitchen’s snake-oil hot sauce, pictured, and BBQ pulled pork with local pork and slaw ingredients are just some of the dishes offered Thursday-Saturday from 6-10 p.m. at Artifact Coffee.

The Union Mill restaurant is collaborating with the husband-and-wife duo Kyle Bailey and Tiffany Macissac of Birch & Barley, GBD, and Arsenal in D.C.

Tiffany’s sought-after GBD doughnuts, pictured, will also be available on Friday morning from 7-11 a.m. They can be pre-ordered by the half-dozen ($14) at Artifact or purchased a la carte.

A special breakfast item includes the “Uncle Buck,” a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich on a maple-doughnut bun. Are you drooling yet?

For reservations, call 410-464-8000. Walk-ins are also welcome.

March, 4th 2014

Pabu Celebrates Its Re-Opening

Baltimore magazine

Closed since January 29 due to a water leak, Pabu in Harbor East is set to re-open in style on Friday, offering guests food, fun, and drinks.

Japanese Taiko drummers, a sake station, and music by DJ Jay Gray will be just some of the events at the party, which begins at 6 p.m. The restaurant's spring cocktail selection will also be available.

Okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake), fried chicken (pictured), and pork loin will be featured on executive chef Jonah Kim's menu, followed by desserts from new executive pastry chef Dyan Ng.

The cost is $30 plus tax and gratuity with a cash bar. To make reservations, call Shannon Toback at 410-223-1464 or email her.

Regular dining hours at PABU will resume on Saturday.

—Eva Niessner 

February, 25th 2014

A First Look at The Valley Inn's Dining Room

Baltimore magazine

Valley Inn dining roomThe Valley Inn has slowly unveiled its personality over the past few months, starting with limited pub hours and gradually expanding service to seven days a week. Tonight, a renovated dining room will also be open for food and drinks.

The 60-seat room, pictured top, has a handsome, masculine feel with a thoroughbred-racing theme, honoring such places as Pimlico Race Course, Sagamore Farm, and Saratoga in New York. Every wall houses artwork and accouterments, including items found in a jockey's locker, pictured left.

The booths and banquets feature rich-brown sapele-mahogany tables and butternut walls. Jockey lamps will eventually light each table. Two fireplaces add to the coziness.

"This isn't your grandmother's Valley Inn," said owner Ted Bauer today as he pointed out various paintings he had commissioned. "There's a lot more activity."

Valley Inn barSince the decades-old building opened its doors on December 30, patrons have been filling up the bar area, pictured, he said, which is adorned with art that strives to capture the area's sporting life—from fishing to golf and horses.

A few dog pictures reflect the mid-19th-century inn's past when there were dog races on the property.

Since 1922, The Valley Inn, officially in Lutherville, was owned by two generations of the Hatfield family. In late 2010, Ted, who also owns The Oregon Grille in Hunt Valley, acquired the property.

Renovations are still continuing with two other dining areas expected to be ready in a few months.

With the opening of the dining room, the menu has been expanded and will continue to grow in the next two-and-a-half weeks when lunch service begins. For now, the kitchen, headed by chef Roger Shugars, offers a tightly scripted menu with soups and salads, appetizers, and "plates" that range from a 10-ounce Valley burger to grilled mahi mahi.

The cheese-steak sliders and char-grilled oysters are very popular, Ted said. Diners will also find a jumbo-lump crab cake, mini meatloaf, house-made shrimp salad, and a grilled eight-ounce tenderloin among other offerings.

"We wanted to have a roadhouse mentality, not be high end," Ted said of the menu. "We want to be a place where people feel comfortable and come by for conversation and dinner and light fare."

The Valley Inn, which opens at 4:30 p.m. daily, is located at 10501 Falls Rd. The phone number is 410-828-0002. No reservations are accecpted. Seating is first come, first serve for now. 

February, 21st 2014

Why Not Open a Volt in Baltimore?

Baltimore magazine

aggio pastaBryan Voltaggio—chef/co-owner of the acclaimed restaurant Volt in Frederick and a former Top Chef runner-up—knew he wanted to open a restaurant in Baltimore. And just as assuredly, he knew it wasn’t going to be a version of his flagship success.

“It’s one I never want to replicate,” said Bryan, who also operates Family Meal in Frederick and Range and Aggio in D.C. “It started all the stuff for us, our core values. There can only be one.”

Instead, he thought Aggio, which he opened February 14 inside Range, would be a good fit for Baltimore with its locavore Italian-Mediterranean menu.

“There are a lot of fantastic people doing cooking in Baltimore,” he said. “There’s Woodberry Kitchen. Spike [Gjerde, chef/owner] is a good friend. There’s Little Italy. There’s a lot of rich culinary culture there.”

Aggio—“the only time I’ve done a second concept,” Bryan said— is scheduled to open in mid- to late spring in the space now occupied by Tatu Asian restaurant in Power Plant Live. Tatu will relocate to another spot in the entertainment complex, according to news reports.

Bryan settled on Power Plant Live because of a connection to the waterfront neighborhood. “Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the Harbor area,” he said. He noted that Power Plant Live is a draw for residents and tourists alike with valet parking and easy access to I-95.

He also pointed out that Aggio will be tucked away at 614 Water Street, not located in the midst of Power Plant Live’s rollicking nightlife scene.

The menu will be similar to the one at the D.C. Aggio, where offerings include meatballs and pasta ($17), prawns with polenta ($29), sweetbreads with gnocchi ($29), and a six-course tasting menu for $95.

The price points will be similar in Baltimore, Bryan said. A chef de cuisine to head the kitchen has not been named yet.

You can meet Bryan at Emporiyum in Fells Point on April 26 and 27, where he’ll be participating in the food festival.

“It’s a natural fit with the restaurant coming to Baltimore in the spring,” he said. “I wanted to start participating more in Baltimore.” 

Pasta photo courtesy of Range's Facebook page

February, 20th 2014

How to Cut Up a Chicken

Baltimore magazine

If the thought of preparing a chicken dish from start to finish is intimidating, an upcoming workshop may be the perfect solution.

A butchery and cooking class will be held on Thursday, February 27, at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, beginning at 6 p.m. It will be taught by the hotel's French master butcher Marc Pauvert and executive chef Oliver Beckert.

Guests will learn how to buy and butcher a chicken with Pauvert, while Beckert will present chicken recipes and cooking techniques.

The $75 reservation includes the class, an evening of food and wine, a recipe book, and a special gift from the chefs. To reserve a space, call Vaughn Allen at 410-223-1333.

—Eva Niessner

February, 19th 2014

Two Baltimore Chefs Are James Beard Semifinalists

Baltimore magazine

Spike GjerdeSeasoned Baltimore chefs Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen and Cindy Wolf of Charleston were picked today as James Beard Foundation Award semifinalists in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category. The finalists will be named on March 18 with the winners being announced in May.

Both chefs have been nominated in the past. Spike was a finalist last year. Cindy has been a finalist twice.

I caught up with Spike—who also runs Artifact Coffee and Shoo-Fly Diner and will be opening his new butcher shop Parts & Labor in Remington next month—on the phone. “It’s the ultimate team effort,” he said of his nomination and referring to his staff. “It’s what it’s all about.”

Spike and Cindy are in a pack of 20 chefs in their category. The list will be whittled considerably next month.

“Fingers crossed,” Spike said of the March announcement. “It’s fun to be on the list.”

Being named in the prestigious competition, which is considered the “Oscars of the Food World,” is an honor. It also brings welcome attention to Baltimore’s burgeoning food scene.

“For me, after 20 years, it’s a time of real excitement,” Spike said. “It’s not limited to Baltimore restaurants, but the broader spectrum of food.”

Good luck, chefs!

February, 18th 2014

The Chef of the New Le Garage in Hampden Does a Pop-Up Dinner

Baltimore magazine

Now's your chance to get a sneak peek of the culinary style of chef Sarah Acconcia, who will be heading the kitchen at the new Le Garage Beer Bar & Frites in Hampden. A special dinner will be held at Maggie's Farm in Lauraville at 6 p.m. on Sunday, February 23.

Sarah, a former sous chef at Maggie's Farm, will team up with chef Andrew Weinzirl to present a menu for the dinner that is being billed as an Anti-Valentine's Day event. It is the second in a monthly pop-up series.

The menu includes salt cod brandade, French onion soup, pictured, and foie-gras steamed clams. Guests can order a seven-course prix fixe for $70 or sample dishes a la carte.

Matthew Weaver, an owner and beverage director of Maggie's Farm, will also be offering craft cocktails for guests to enjoy.

Le Garage is scheduled to open in April.

—Eva Niessner 


February, 14th 2014

Baltimore Restaurant Week Starts Sunday

Baltimore magazine

The good eating just doesn’t stop this month. Now, it’s time for Baltimore Restaurant Week, which starts Sunday and runs through Feb. 23.

There are more than 100 participating restaurants offering three-course, fixed-price menus for $30 or $20, not including tax and gratuity. Some places are also serving two-course lunch or brunch menus for $15.

Newcomers like Ozra, Dooby’s, and French Kitchen at Lord Baltimore Hotel (the fabulous five-beet salad, pictured, is on the menu) have joined the annual promotion as well as favorites like Cinghiale, Kali’s Court, and B&O American Brasserie.

Reservations are encouraged, especially at some of the more popular restaurants. Restaurant Week is part of an Absolutely Febulous promotion offering special deals at area hotels, museums, and other venues.

Here’s a sampling of some of the menus. 

Oliver Speck’s Drinks & Eats, Harbor East, three courses, $30. Dinner menu choices include arugula salad, pimento cheese with house-made crackers, meats (beef brisket, pork spare ribs, and smoked turkey breast) with sides (bacon-and-egg potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans) and bread (buttermilk biscuit and cornbread); and desserts like pecan pie, coconut cream pie, and chocolate brownie sundae.

Regi’s American Bistro, Federal Hill, three courses, $30. Dinner menu choices include A.J.’s tater tots, smashed brisket-and-sirloin meatballs, jumbo lump crab cake, flat-iron steak, miso salmon, and desserts like upside-down apple walnut pie and cinnamon crunch coffee cake.

Clementine, Hamilton, three courses, $30. Dinner choices include duck Caesar salad, smoked bluefish niçoise, charcuterie, grilled teres-major steak, mahi mahi, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and Korean red-miso udon.

Alchemy, Hampden, three courses, $30. Dinner choices include colossal crab mac & cheese, Calypso hummus with flat-bread points, chili-rubbed pork tenderloin, roasted red snapper, lamb Bolognese, and various desserts.

For a complete list and menus, check the Absolutely Febulous website.


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